When She Was Good
Author: Norma Fox Mazer
Grade Level Equivalent:
Guided Reading Level:
Death, Grief, Loss, Parents, Feelings and Emotions, Running Away, Siblings
At the beginning of this startling, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting novel, a young woman named Pamela lies dead on the living room floor, with her younger sister, Em, wondering if she's responsible. Is she? How did Em get to this point in her life? How did she survive? The answers are revealed in the direct, open, and remarkably hopeful voice of a teenage girl whose basically sunny disposition outlives some of the darkest circumstances imaginable.
Throughout Em's life she has lived in the menacing shadow of her older sister's unstable personality. Although sometimes funny and appreciative of Em, Pamela has wild mood swings and uncontrollable rages. Their mother too is both mentally and physically frail, given to bouts of crying and depression. When she dies and their alcoholic father takes up with one of his co-workers, Pamela takes charge and runs away with Em to the city nearby.
The ups and downs of the sisters' life on their own is chronicled with humor, pathos, and unflinching honesty; from the moment Pamela's anger first turns to physical violence, to Em's triumphant reconnections to people and things in the world outside their apartment. It's a book you won't be able to put down. And one you'll never forget.